The event took place amid the ongoing drive by the Taiwanese government to crack down on six categories of DEHP-tainted products, namely: fruit jams and preserves, fruit juices, sports drinks, teas, food powders and food or food supplement tablets. To date, almost 500 product items manufactured by 155 Taiwanese food and drink companies have been found to contain DEHP.
Data from the website of the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration show that, as of last Friday, up to 465,638 bottles of DEHP-tainted beverages have been pulled out from store shelves. Also, up to 270,822 boxes and 68,924 packs of powdered probiotics and 28,539 kilos of fruit juices, fruit jam, powder and syrup, and yoghurt powder have been removed from shelves.
Carrying placards in Chinese and in English that say “don’t sell unless proven DEHP-free,” the “AlerToxic Patrollers” went store-hopping to persuade merchants to voluntarily remove “high-risk” Taiwanese goods from store shelves.
From Binondo Church to Santa Cruz Church, the “AlerToxic Patrollers” strolled through the busy street of Ongpin and the adjacent streets of Carvajal, Salazar, Masangkay, T. Alonzo and T. Mapua, talking to shop owners and blowing whistles to catch public attention.
They provided supermarkets, grocery shops and drug stores in the area with a list of DEHP-contaminated products that the EcoWaste Coalition downloaded from the Taiwanese government website.
“We have come here today with an urgent plea to all importers, distributors and vendors of high-risk beverage, food and medicinal goods from Taiwan to temporarily stop from selling such products until consumer safety from DEHP is totally guaranteed,” said Aileen Lucero, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We think it is a very reasonable demand given the toxic crisis that is sadly affecting Taiwan’s food industry,” said Lucero.
As a precautionary action, the EcoWaste Coalition has suggested the following steps that businessmen should take into consideration to promote consumer health and safety from DEHP-tainted goods:
1. Temporarily remove from store shelves beverage, food and medicinal products that have been classified as “high-risk” by the Taiwanese government.
2. Ask the importers or distributors of the “high-risk” products to produce verifiable certificates that the goods are not tainted with DEHP.
3. Put back goods to the store shelves only after being confirmed as DEHP-free.
4. Return products that have failed to secure DEHP-free certifications back to importers or distributors for safe disposal.
“Amid the Taiwan toxic food scare, it is only fair and rational for local businessmen to assure their customers that only certified DEHP-free products are being sold in the market,” said Lucero.
“The burden of proof lies with the manufacturers, importers, distributors and vendors,” she reiterated.
“Loyal customers will surely thank and reward businessmen who look after their health and safety,” she added.
DEHP, a suspected carcinogen, belongs to a family of industrial chemicals called phthalates that are used to soften or to make plastic pliable.
Animal studies have shown that phthalates can damage the kidneys, liver, lungs and the reproductive system, particularly the developing testes. Other scientific studies have linked exposure to DEHP to impaired male fertility
It is the same developmental and reproductive toxicant that the EcoWaste Coalition found in some of the plastic toys that the group sent to Taiwan for laboratory analysis in December 2010.